Bipolar disorder is a condition characterized by unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity level and the ability to complete daily living tasks.
Types of Bipolar Disorder: Bipolar 1 vs. 2
- High energy level and hyperactivity
- Decreased need for sleep
- Rapid and/or loud speech
- Excessive spending
- Moving quickly from one idea to the next
- Inflated self-image
- Making and pursuing overly ambitious and unrealistic plans
- Substance abuse
People with bipolar disorder also experience periods of depression with symptoms that include:
- Persistent sadness
- Loss of interest or pleasure in activities
- Feelings of guilt or worthlessness
- Low energy and activity
- Suicidal thoughts (in bipolar I disorder)
The main differentiator between bipolar I disorder and bipolar II disorder is that in the latter, which is the milder form, a person experiences a pattern of depressive episodes and hypomanic (a milder mania) episodes, but not the full-blown manic episodes found in bipolar I disorder.
Bipolar Disorder Risk Factors
The cause of bipolar disorder is unknown. However, studies have shown that there are a number of factors that increase the risk of someone developing the condition. They include:
- Genetics. People with bipolar disorder often have one or more close relatives with bipolar disorder or depression.
- Excessive drug or alcohol use. While substance abuse does not seem to cause bipolar disorder, it can trigger the symptoms.
- Stress. Stressful events do not cause bipolar disorder. However, they can elicit manic or depressive behaviors in people biologically predisposed to the condition.
- Inadequate sleep. Although it is not believed to be a causative factor in bipolar disorder, lack of sleep increases the risk of manic episodes in people with the condition.
- Antidepressant use (bipolar I disorder). While it is not thought to cause bipolar I disorder, antidepressant use by people with the condition increases the risk of manic episodes, especially when taken as the only medication.
Treating Bipolar Disorder
Bipolar disorder cannot be prevented. However, addressing the risk factors by not abusing recreational drugs or alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking action to lower your stress level can be beneficial.
If symptoms of bipolar disorder occur, it is important to get medical attention promptly. The sooner a person with bipolar disorder receives an evaluation and starts on a treatment plan, the less disruptive the condition is to their life.
Bipolar disorder can be successfully treated using a variety of medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotics, benzodiazepines and mood stabilizers. Psychotherapy (or talk therapy), electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and alternative medicine can also play a role in treating bipolar disorder.
A Positive Prognosis
Bipolar disorder is a serious and debilitating condition. However, people who work with their doctor to find the right combination of treatments greatly increase their chances of living happy, healthy and productive lives.